Some very exciting is work being done in the archival and public history fields. For example, Concordia University's oral history project, Stories Matter, has resulted in the development of some interesting audio recording software, designed from the bottom up for oral historians. In the area of transcription, the crowd sourcing transcription initiative,Transcribe Benthem from University College London, is an experiment in using social media to help along archival research and scholarship. In fact, the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University lists many interesting digital tools an archive might want to offer researchers. Unfortunately, a lot of the tools out there are one-off projects and integrating them can be very difficult.
The idea driving Project Chronicle is to try to center archival and public history innovation on a free and open source framework; a common framework which allows archives and museums to easily integrate different initiatives and collections. Project Chronicle is more about building a community around a platform, and less about building a specific product.
The Drupal CMS, with its modular system, thriving community, and huge repository of existing functionality seemed as likely a framework to start with as any. A key advantage of Drupal is that its community exists outside the archival world. Drawing on the work of outsiders is a tremendous shot in the arm for any small community, and the community of archival software developers is pretty small. Outsiders think "outside" the box, because -- by definition -- they are. They're a source of creativity, not to mention support. True, not many people are interested in archival development, but many are interested in developing on Drupal, and their interests can be borrowed and leveraged to meet our needs. For example, an audio recording module, intended for teaching languages can be re-purposed as an oral history module for less time and money then building one from scratch. At the very least, hooking public history and archival information access onto one of the most successful content management systems in the world, can't be all bad.
To get things started Algoma University, in order to meet the needs of the Residential Schools Centre, the Shingwauk Project, the Digital Algoma Institutional Repository, and the University Archives has migrated its collections from the DB/Textworks platform to Drupal. The plan is to start developing the kind of functionality we feel archivists and public historians need; then make it available as FOSS for other museums, archives and historical institutions to use and add to.
We intend to release the work we've done on this site via the Drupal feature system, which is essentially allows you to export a Drupal site that's been pre-configured for a specific task; in this case, to manage an archive or museum. Features allows us to export the site as a series of pieces or modules, for example an "accessions feature" or a "Record" feature. We hope to post our profile in September 2011.
In time, we hope Chronicle will be more than "a collection of documents in Drupal," but rather a complete archival management system built on top of the Drupal framework and supported by a community of archivists, developers and historians.